AS he scored on a short stab in a scrimmage on Tuesday, Ian Sangalang let out a roar like it was a PBA Finals game, heard around Magnolia’s new practice facility inside the San Miguel Foods head office in Pasig along C5.
The Hotshots star big man is simply cherishing the new lease on his career after being declared fit to play following his scary bout with hyperthyroidism.
Sidelined since February, the 31-year-old Sangalang was cleared to join no-contact drills three weeks ago and has been given the go-signal this week to participate in 5-on-5 action with contact.
His return came way earlier than what was set in the timetable, hopefully in time for the next PBA season in October.
“Nung last checkup ko, thankful ako kay God kasi sobrang okay na,” Sangalang said. “Hindi yun yung target date namin. Mas later pa. Pero God is good. Binigyan ako ng mas early. Kasi yung preseason hindi naman talaga target namin makalaro. Tapos ngayon, nakakasali na ako ng practice.”
Looking livelier and chunkier than his frame when he last saw action in the Governors’ Cup late January, Sangalang recounted his battle with the thyroid illness.
“Ang hirap nung pinagdaanan ko last conference eh. Pag dating ko ng January, parang bagsak na bagsak yung katawan ko,” the 6-foot-7 slotman admitted.
Sangalang first noticed the symptoms in December during their Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series against Barangay Ginebra.
“Nagre-reklamo na ako mga PT namin, sa mga conditioning coach,” Sangalang said. “Bakit ganun, coach, halftime pa lang, parang walang-wala na ‘ko? Maglalakad ako papuntang dugout, parang hindi ako aabot. Parang gusto ko nang umupo.”
After passing his annual physical exam at the start of the year when the Hotshots returned from a two-week vacation, Sangalang thought he was back to normal.
But when they began training ahead of the Governors’ Cup, everybody noticed Sangalang’s severe weight loss.
“Wala talaga akong laman, ang payat-payat ko. Parang makita mo ako nung rookie days ko,” the former San Sebastian star and second overall pick in the 2013 draft said. “Mabilis na ako mapagod, wala akong power. Pag nag-work out ako, yung normal na binubuhat ko, kahit kinse (15 kilos) lang yan, hirap na hirap ako. Hindi ko mabuhat.”
“So dun na sila nag-duda,” he added.
Sangalang still played in their January 29 game against Converge, but was mysteriously shut down for the rest of the season after a checkup that discovered his thyroid issue.
“Sabi ng doctor, ‘Example, ikaw yung sasakyan, tumatakbo sa NLEX ng 100. Ikaw yung takbo mo 300,’” Sangalang said.
“Kahit tulog ka, yung cells mo, parang kinakagat pa rin yung laman mo, tumatakbo pa rin yun. So pag natulog ka, pag-gising mo, daig mo pa yung nag-basketball.”
Sangalang said, according to the doctor, it’s rare for men to suffer from the said illness, although it could be hereditary owing to his family’s history of the disease.
Sangalang met with an endocrinologist, who gave him three choices to cure the illness: the first was to remove his thyroid, second to have treatment for 18 months, and third to undergo RAI (radioactive iodine) therapy.
“Ayaw ko naman ng 18 months. Ayaw ko din operahan, nakakatakot. So pinli ko yung RAI,” Sangalang said after also getting recommendations from coach Chito Victolero and San Miguel sports director Alfrancis Chua.
Sangalang’s doctor gave him three months to undergo therapy, but gave no assurance of its effect.
He avoided foods rich in iodine, such as seafood and cheese, among others, as he ate mostly meat and rice.
“Nung time na yun, kahit isang kaldero ubusin ko, hindi ako tataba,” he said.
But less than two months into his therapy, Sangalang already felt like he was back to his old self. And a month later, he had a checkup and was cleared.
“Napakabait ng Diyos. Hindi ako pinabayaan,” Sangalang, husband to Eunice and father to Isaiah, said. “Hinihingi ko lang three months, pero pa-two months pa lang yun, binigyan na talaga ako ng clearance na makapaglaro.”
His recovery period also gave him time to manage their Wings 2 Go restaurant in Angeles City.
“Mas lalong okay kasi ngayon nagsasabay na: may basketball na ako, meron pa akong (negosyo), so sobrang thankful ko lang kasi yung positive na mindset ko, lumaban talaga.”
Victolero expects Sangalang to make his PBA On Tour debut within two weeks.
“I’m very happy with Ian, unti-unti, nakakabalik siya. But also, we’re very patient with Ian since the start. We don’t want to rush him. Right now, he’s gradually doing his thing,” the Hotshots coach said.
Regardless of when he makes his comeback, Sangalang has already made a huge step in the right direction.
“Kasi ang daming dumaan sa akin nung bungad nung taon eh. Pero hindi ako nawalan ng pag-asa. Hindi ako pinanghinaan ng loob. Naniwala ako sa sarili ko na babalik ako, gagaling ako,” Sangalang concluded.